Years ago I had a conversation with a born-Jewish friend in the months leading up to my Orthodox conversion. We were discussing Shabbat menus, and my yen for ethnic food prompted her to say, “I wonder what kind of Jew you’ll make.”
That sounded like a really insensitive thing to say, but I knew what she meant. I was not like the other Jews she knew—either the frum-from-births or the ba’alei teshuva. It makes me think of some of the oddities of my situation in the Jewish world. I know I’m a convert when…
· I’m hanging out with other converts in my former home town in New England, and when I mention that my ancestors first arrived in America on the Mayflower, they say, “You too?”
· my idea of a great Shabbat meal is tandoori chicken kebabs, aloo gobi, rice cooked with cardamom pods, and coconut rice pudding for dessert.
· gefilte fish and herring in wine sauce look, smell, and taste like cat food. Admit it.
· someone who grew up Jewish corrects my pronunciation, such as when I say “white fish salad” with equal stress on white and fish, and I’m informed that it’s pronounced WHITEfish (one word), and that chicken soup is pronounced CHICKensoup (also one word).
· everyone’s knickers are in a twist over kol isha, and all I can think is, “So WHAT?”
· I’m parading around shul holding three branches and a lemon and saying to myself, “I can’t believe I’m doing this…”
· I explain to my kids that “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a teshuva story.
· I overhear a born-Jew complaining about Judaism and saying, “Really—who signs up for this?” and all I can do is laugh until I cry.
· I get a little thrill every time I open a bottle of non-mevushal wine.
· I actually believe I was not Jewish before immersing in the mikvah, and was Jewish when I emerged from it.
(Many ba’alei teshuva may see themselves in some of these situations. This isn’t meant to exclude them; it’s just a few things I and other converts I know have experienced.)